Drawings of Anglo-Saxons


Drawings of objects

Anglo-Saxon Brooches

What do we know about Anglo-Saxon brooches?

click on these questions to see find out more

Who wore Anglo-Saxon brooches and what were they like?

Brooches were known as dalc or spennels to the Anglo-Saxons. They were mainly worn by women, especially between AD450-650. Women wore brooches in pairs in order to fasten their dresses, whereas single brooches were probably used to fasten cloaks. Brooches were usually made of bronze (copper alloy) but were sometimes made of iron and decorated with gold or silver.

Anglo-Saxon woman drawn by Martha age 9

Martha age 9

There were many shapes and styles of Anglo-Saxon brooches.
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What are the different types of brooches?

There were long brooches, which archaeologists have been split into differnet categories.

Parts of brooch

Archaeologists have given names to the different parts of long brooches to help them describe this different types of brooch

  • Head – this is often decorated.
  • Bow
  • Foot – this is often decorated
  • Pin - this is on the back of the brooch and holds it in place.

The Anglo-Saxons wore circular types of brooches, which have also been given different names by archaeologists.

Other styles of brooches have also been identified by archaeologists, including equal-armed brooches, S brooches and bird brooches.

See more examples of brooches in the virtual gallery (case 1,case 2 , case 6 and case 8)

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Why are Anglo-Saxon brooches decorated?

Many Anglo-Saxon brooches were decorated.

Today, archaeologists use the decoration on brooches to find similarities been different types of brooches.

The Anglo-Saxons problably decorated their brooches for a number of reasons.

  • Decoration makes the brooches look nice.
  • The amount of decoration may have shown others how wealthy and important the person wearing the brooch was.
  • The decoration may also have had some religous, magical, ethnic or social meanings, which today we cannot understand but only guess at.

Drawing of decoration on brooch

Decoration on head plate of brooch

Decoratin on square headed brooch

Different patterns of decoration may have had different meanings. For instance, the animals and faces on brooches may have represented Anglo-Saxon myths. What do you think they mean?

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